Many of us in the Malaysian advertising industry always lament about the lack of creative license afforded to us by clients – including me, occasionally.
Compared to our regional counterparts in Thailand, Indonesia, India and even our ‘friends’ separated by just a waterway in Singapore; we Malaysians addies aren’t that creative to be honest.
I am not trying to blame anyone here. Whether clients give us the creative freedom or not should not be used as an excuse. It is how creatively we work within the constraints that matter.
But let’s look at it this way. Creativity is subjective; and is not the kind of waters you want to thread, especially when millions in media budget is at stake.
And the biggest question is this – even if audiences get an idea that is creative, do they remember the product?
I have friends who sometimes comment on ads they’ve seen. They will rave about how creative it was, and when asked about the product that the ad was supposed to sell, go totally blank.
So it is quite understandable when Malaysian clients take a more direct route in communicating to their target market. If a mind-blowing creative campaign doesn’t ring in the sales or even improve brand awareness; then what’s the point?
As a copywriter, I always believed creativity in advertising is a balancing act. A campaign must be equally memorable and be able to compel action at the same time.
Finding that equilibrium is where the magic of advertising happens.
As a copywriter, I always thought I was a Jaguh Kampung, loosely translated from Malay to mean ‘Village Champion’.
It is a term normally used in sports, referring to the inability of Malaysian sportsmen and women to compete in an international level, even though they are champions locally; hence Jaguh Kampung.
Well we are waiting for our first Olympic gold medal aren’t we? I wish they would just introduce squash in the next Olympics so we can really kick some ass.
Since I became a copywriter about 13 years ago, I have only written for the local markets. Maybe there is an exception of a couple of odd jobs here and there, but nothing too serious to dent my Village Champion reputation.
But copywriting is like that. You need to be in-tune with the local markets; constantly observing trends, gathering native knowledge and be able to communicate to the masses in a simple, localized manner.
Writing in a foreign market changes the rules for a village champion like me. Though the fundamentals remain the same, local insight is critical to help ensure a message is effectively delivered and understood.
Or so I thought.
When I was in South Korea recently on a job, I had absolutely no knowledge of the local markets. What motivates the Koreans? What compels them? What are their taboos? And how the hell was I going to translate my local Malaysian knowledge in a country where even English is hardly spoken?
Then I realized something. Even if I was tasked to communicate and appeal to Koreans, they are after all, humans. While I looked very different (bordering on exotic), I realized that Koreans are motivated, inspired, awed and surprised by the same things.
All it took was to keep things clear and simple; with a little bit of reward thrown in to compel action. Yes, translating everything into Korean also helped, but we translate pretty much everything into Chinese and Malay here as well.
So it doesn’t really matter where you’re from; all it takes is a little bit of human insight.
As someone who’s been a freelance copywriter for the past year; this last 2 weeks or so has been absolute chaos.
I had to go from what-to-do-now? to what-the-freak? in a matter of days. But my time in Yeosu, Korea, for the World Expo 2012 so far has been eye-opening.
There are representatives from 110 countries at the Expo site promoting their nations. Each country has its own hall – also known as a Pavilion – for visitors to explore.
The crowds are massive. Some days, up to 100,000 people visit the expo. The Malaysia Pavilion alone has received up to 40,000 visitors in a day, from 9am to 9pm. It’s a sea of people everywhere you look; with performances, showcases and parades happening around every corner.
The Malaysia Pavilion – where I’m tasked with Publicity & Promotions – is actually one of the best pavilions around. Yes, I actually mean it. This is not a publicity post, it’s just the honest truth.
As Malaysians, we are often very quick to dismiss anything Malaysian. We tend to disregard our own capabilities and rave about what the Mat Sallehs are doing. But truth be told, we Malaysians are quite good at what we do; I suppose it’s just a matter of commitment.
Hmmm… I’m feeling patriotic all of the sudden, maybe because it is the month of Merdeka or maybe I just miss home.
But either way, I’m proud to represent Malaysia here. 2 more weeks to go… and more pictures to follow soon, when I find the time.